When December delivers a Sunday with temperatures of up to 45 degrees and without a snowflake in sight, Western New Yorkers seize it and go places usually off-limits until spring.
Normally, they might be pointing their vehicles toward ski country or scrambling for an indoor attraction to escape the weather.
Not this time. And even more people might have joined them outdoors if not for a certain televised football game that they couldn’t bear to pass up.
Out-of-season scenes abounded Sunday afternoon. A cyclist riding in shorts on a bike path along Lake Erie. Two guys playing tennis at the McMillan Courts. Kids in brightly colored jackets playing soccer at Delaware Park. A man fishing at Erie Basin Marina, near rows of empty boat slips.
At LaSalle Park, a dozen young skateboarders filled the skate park’s ramps. One of them was 20-year-old Johnny Pepperony, of Tonawanda.
He woke up, saw it was a nice day and headed to the park. “I want to snowboard, but you take what you get,” he said after gliding to the top of a ramp. “We’re in Buffalo.”
Just down the road, dog owners watched their pets frolic and chase balls inside the fenced-in dog park. Dog owners such as Therese Bass of Buffalo savored the mild moment. “I come here pretty often, but I probably wouldn’t usually come around now, because it’s too cold,” Bass said. “I saw a boatload of people jogging in shorts.”
Terry Murzynski, of Orchard Park, captured the “carpe diem” spirit as well as anyone: He kayaked on Lake Erie for about two hours. He tried to catch some walleye or bass while he was at it, at a favorite spot off Buffalo Harbor State Park. “Usually, the fishing’s good there, but not much going on today,” he said.
The Ice at Canalside is popular with skaters at this time of year, and that was certainly true Sunday. “Walking in a Winter Wonderland” floated from the speaker system, even if the slope by the rink was rather green.
Drew Szurczynski, of Buffalo, buzzed across the ice, playing tag with his 9-year-old daughter, Kierstyn. He stood out from the crowd not only for his speed, but for the fact he skated in a short-sleeved shirt 16 days before winter’ arrival. “I was wearing a Carhartt for about two hours, so I got real hot,” he said, as his daughter swept past and tagged him. “Now it’s great. It’s perfect.”
In Kenmore, Tina Anderson decided it was a good day to dress up her 3-year-old daughter, Cecelia, and take her outside for some Christmas photos in the village. Then they were heading to see a Minions-themed display on a homeowner’s lawn.
“It’s kind of scary to me,” she said with a laugh. “I feel like it should be colder out and snowier.”
At midafternoon, about two dozen cars were parked in the lot at Grover Cleveland Golf Course in Amherst. The sounds on the course were familiar – the thwack of a ball hit off a tee, members of a foursome needling one another – even if out of place on the calendar. The golfers had a different view.
“Glorious!” a beaming Everett Hardy exclaimed as he strolled down from the 15th green. “It’s like Christmas come early.”